My new Peggy is a thoroughly suburban woman. She is very comfortable driving the slow-paced streets of Peachtree City, the planned golf course community where she spent the last 20 years of her life. But navigating the confusing tangle of impatient Atlanta streets — that causes her some anxiety. During the first few months of our marriage, she called me repeatedly from her cell phone asking how to get home from where she was lost. I would ask her the name of the street she was on and what direction she was heading. Identifying the street was easy enough but the direction of travel? Not a clue. “Keep going the same direction and give me the names of the next two cross streets,” I would instruct in my calmest tone. Usually, after a few minutes of questioning, I could figure out where she was and which way she was heading. Then I could direct her to the nearest expressway entrance. Once she was on the interstate she could follow the signs home. Needless to say, navigating the city was stressful for her, for both of us. I surprised her one day with a gift — a GPS! A Global Positioning System is an amazing device. It receives signals from satellites high above the earth, pinpoints your location on a computerized map, and directs you to any location you tell it. It was the perfect gift for Peggy. Now she can cut out ads and coupons from the morning paper, plug into her GPS the addresses of the stores where the bargains are, and head out for a day of shopping without a concern in the world about getting lost. And getting back home from any shopping destination is anxiety-free — just touch HOME on her new little companion and a female voice courteously gives her turn-by-turn directions right to our doorstep.
My minister brother recently related to me a conversation he had with one of his older parishioners who had recently purchased a GPS. “This electronic marvel always knows where you’re at anywhere in the world!” the man exclaimed as he demonstrated the remarkable device for my brother. “No” responded my brother with tongue in cheek, “This thing has no idea where you are at any time. All it knows is where it’s at - and that’s all! It can never know where you are - but you can, if you stay close to it.”
My brother was right, of course. A GPS signal can give the precise location of the transmitting unit, whether it’s housed in a car, boat, jacket pocket or desk drawer. But Peggy’s GPS does her absolutely no good when she happens to leave it in her Ford and drives off in my Buick. The only way her GPS is useful to her is when she keeps it with her. I told my brother there was a sermon in there somewhere. He agreed. I know there is a good parable in this but, not being a theologian, I’m just not quite sure how to spin the application.
Maybe it’s like being guided daily by scripture reading — the Book is of no use when it’s shelved in a bookcase. Could work. Or maybe it’s like following one’s conscience, although a conscience can be programmed and give off false signals. Here’s one I like better. How about the Holy Spirit that Christ promised to all His followers, a Presence that would always remain within us to guide us into all truth? It is a special gift He gives us to keep us from getting lost, an indwelling GPS that keeps us from going off in the wrong direction, a trustworthy Voice that will direct us home. And this GPS does know where we are, at all times anywhere in the world, so we don’t have to worry about forgetting it somewhere. Now that is a gift.